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Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee’s son asks UK to grant father asylum, fearing Russia deportation

August 23, 2023 at 3:58 pm

Former Guantanamo detainee, Ravil Mingazov [Social media/X]

The son of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, who is currently held in a prison within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has urged the United Kingdom to grant his father asylum, fearing that he will be deported to Russia and be subject to more torture or death.

In a letter to the UK Home Office last week, Yusuf Mingazov, the son of former Guantanamo detainee, Ravil Mingazov, requested that the department grant his father asylum and residency in the UK, where both Yusuf and his mother live.

With the case being supported by the UK-based campaign group, Cage, Yusuf stated in the letter that his father “has endured over two decades of imprisonment, torture and mistreatment and has been separated from his family for over twenty years. He is an innocent man. He deserves the chance to live his life in freedom and safety, with his family.”

The son added “I cannot express the pain and anguish that my family and I continue to endure as a result of this. The helplessness we feel is quelled only by the hope that my father will, one day soon, be reunited with us.”

After serving in the former Soviet Union’s military ballet troupe, Ravil had escaped Russia in 2000 and travelled to Tajikistan in order to evade persecution over his Islamic faith and identity. 

When his infant son became ill, however, his wife and child returned to Russia while he travelled on to Afghanistan and then Pakistan, where he was arrested and abducted by Pakistani authorities in 2002.

As was commonly the case during those early years of the ‘war on terror’, in which the United States pressured and employed governments in Muslim-majority countries to arrest and extradite alleged suspected militants, authorities in Pakistan sold and transferred Ravil to American hands for a bounty.

READ: British spies allegedly complicit in CIA torture are subject to UK law, judges rule

He was taken to the notorious Bagram air base in Afghanistan, which the US occupation used as a black site for torture, before arriving at Guantanamo Bay in October 2002. After 15 years there, Ravil was finally released and sent to the UAE in 2017, where he was again detained without reason and has been imprisoned ever since.

Now, his family fears that, after more than two decades away, he could be deported back to Russia in which he reportedly faces the likelihood of further imprisonment, torture or even death.

“During his time in Guantanamo, my father was visited by Russian agents who threatened him with imprisonment, torture and death,” Yusuf stated in the letter to the UK Home Office on Friday. The letter drew attention to the fact that the UAE “recently announced that they intended to forcibly repatriate Yusuf’s father to Russia.”

Such a decision and the danger it poses, the letter said, “has been widely condemned by both the UN and the US, with UN experts emphasising that the repatriation would represent a violation of international law, in particular the principle of refoulement.”

The call to grant Ravil Mingazov was strengthened by several British MPs in a joint appeal last week, which included representatives from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.

According to the appeal, which was shown to Middle East Monitor, the “abuse former Guantánamo detainees have suffered in Russia has been well-documented by Human Rights Watch and other NGOs. Mr Mingazov was never charged with any crime before, during or after his detention at Guantánamo.”

His repatriation would put him in a position where “he will face serious persecution” at the hands of Russian authorities and would also be “a breach of Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture”, it stated.

“We are requesting that you meet with us and urgently contact the UAE to ask that Mr Mingazov not be repatriated to Russia, and that you immediately consider granting his application to enter and remain in the UK, and be reunited with his son and family”, the parliamentarians urged.

READ: UN body condemns US, others for treatment of Guantanamo inmate